Berkeley Methodist United Chr
1710 Carleton St
Berkeley, CA 94703
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Esther Olsen

1943 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Esther Olsen Obituary
Esther Omi Olsen


Esther Makiko Omi Olsen was born September 15, 1943 in the Manzanar war relocation camp in California's Mojave Desert during World War II. She was with her parents and eldest sister Hannah Meiko (Zender) as their childhoods were repeatedly uprooted, first to the Tule Lake then Amache concentration camps.

After the war, the family settled in Los Angeles before her father assumed nichigo (Japanese-language) ministerial duties at the Berkeley Free Methodist Church in 1950. Esther grew up through the Berkeley unified school system, then eventually earned a bachelor's degree in Entomology from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). She passed away on September 4, 2018 due to a hemorrhagic stroke, with sons Carter and Miles by her side. She is also survived by brothers Philip (Benicia CA) and Shel (Wheat Ridge CO), as well as numerous extended family members.

She was employed for most of her adult life at UCB, assisting with varied laboratory studies, including early focus on silkworms followed by detailed investigations of ticks. She possessed a highly disciplined mind, contributing to her voracious reading habits and a tenacity for technical detail, whether applied to her academic studies, musical practice, or while carving turns on a ski slope. She was fascinated with the ways humans interact with the environment, including the conservation of natural resources, which she considered so vital to the health of the planet. One of her favorite annual outdoor activities involved meeting with students and faculty at UCB's Hopland Field Station, but she also enjoyed camping trips in the mountains with her family. Her interest in natural processes extended to perfecting food fermentation processes, including natto and kombucha, the former handed down to her from three generations of trial and error.

Esther loved the arts and especially music, and was invited to join the violin section of the Prometheus Symphony Orchestra in her later years, but she also participated in the Albany Community Orchestra. In addition to violin, she played flute, organ, and piano, employing the latter musical skills as an accompanist at local churches in the East Bay. She also enjoyed working with fabrics and textiles, employing sewing skills that allowed her to create much of her daily, colorful wardrobe.

Above all, Esther believed in the importance of friendships and family relations. She maintained a diverse circle of friends which stemmed from childhood in south Berkeley, but also included relations developed from her other life pursuits. She was an anchor within the extended family, and maintained communication with relatives still alive in Japan. Esther will be remembered for her infectious smile and laughter and the positive attitude that she exuded at all times.

The memorial service for Esther Makiko Omi Olsen is set for Saturday, November 10, 2018, 11 AM at the Berkeley Methodist United Church, 1710 Carleton St., Berkeley CA 94703. In keeping with her life values, her family requests that attendees at the service wear bright colors or floral patterns.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 26, 2018
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